I hope you have all managed to stay safe during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
I’m certain that this crisis will be causing a number of you financial, mental health and wellbeing issues and whilst I cannot help out financially, if anybody needs somebody just to talk too, please feel free to contact me in strictest confidence. There are of course professional counsellors that are better suited and trained to help you and I would urge anybody that’s feeling under pressure to make use of the various confidential helplines such as Samaritans Phone 116 123
Newsletters: As you will be aware, we did not issue the Spring Newsletter. Although 95% of the content had been assimilated, the type setters and printers we use shut down in line with Government instructions due to the rapid increase in CV-19 cases. There was an option via one those who have logged into our website and/or Face Book page which only constitutes around 30% of our membership. Council therefore decided to issue a bumper Autumn Edition instead. For the record, our rules state we should publish one Newsletter per annum so we are in compliance with our club rules. Nevertheless, I apologise for any inconvenience caused.
AGM 2020: We are currently unable to make firm arrangements for an AGM due to the present circumstances, however I have asked our Treasurer Steve Lambert to continue working with Steve Neville and our Scottish Regional Committee to make provisional arrangements for a limited two or three day field meet for around 20 falconers and to source a meeting venue in the local area that is suitable to accommodate the AGM. I have also spoken to Midland Regional Chairman Simon Tyers with a view to making a provisional booking at The Riverside Hotel at Burton-on-Trent which we have used on many occasions in the past. I have also asked Simon to attempt to source land on which to hold a limited field meeting for up to 20 falconers. The field meets will not be affected by CV-19 as long as we follow whatever social distancing guidelines are current at that time, but we are not quite sure what the arrangements will be for hotels in October. It may be that we have a 2-3 day limited field meet in Scotland in November/December and an AGM with 2 day limited field meeting around the Burton area at the end of October. We will have to wait and see how it all pans out, but be assured we are working on it.
Wild Take: As some of you will be aware, Mr Gary Wall and two of his colleagues were issued licences by Natural England to take peregrines from the wild. It is their intention to take 30 peregrines over a 5 year period to build a breeding pool of wild taken British peregrines. Should a virus decimate the wild peregrine then Mr Wall and co would be able to supplement the surviving wild peregrines with his native stock. It is my understanding that peregrines from his breeding project will be passed onto falconers in due course to hunt with. There has been the expected outcry to the taking of wild peregrines from protectionists, but the two most prominent organisations, RSPB and Wild Justice, have not reacted as I would have thought. The RSPB have called it a selfish act and Wild Justice have barely said a word, albeit they shared the information on Mark Avery’s Blog, much to the enragement of most of his followers. The BFC has applied for licences to take 10 sparrowhawks and 5 peregrines from the wild, each year for the next six years. Natural England recently wrote to me apologising for the delay in informing us of their decision which was due to limited staff because of CV-19, but that we should expect a response imminently. Whilst I have my doubts as to whether we will be granted licences this year (in any case it is too late for us now as they will have all flown the nest), if we do so in the future we should expect further comments from protectionists.
The Journal: This year’s issue is all but completed and looking through the draft content it appears to be a very good edition. Thanks to our Secretary Jacqui Morris and our President Nick Kester for carrying out all the donkey work again and of course the contributors without which we would not be able to produce this publication. With most businesses returning to work in line with government guidelines, we are hopeful that the printers will return to work and that your Journal will be on your doorsteps around the same time of the year as is usually the case.
Fortunately our secretary has been able to continue working from home, albeit in a reduced capacity.
Dr Gordon Mellor, Hawk Board Chairman has kindly forwarded a brief update for us which I append to my communication.
Here’s hoping that everybody has a good clean moult and that all members that have breeding birds have had a good outcome.
Best Wishes – Stay safe!!
British Falconers’ Club
HB Short Report
The Hawk Board have been pretty busy over the recent period notwithstanding the lockdown. Falconers and bird of prey keepers have been divided in response to Natural England’s granting of licences to take a small number of native peregrines for falconry and breeding. Whilst falconry got some pretty poor coverage in the national press and it certainly raised a storm amongst our opponents on social media, the reaction from responsible, authoritative bodies was pretty muted. I wish to clarify that the Board was neither involved in nor communicated with about the applications or the granting of licences. I have been accused by supporters and those against of either not doing enough to bring them about or indeed of failing to block them. The Board statement can be found on our website.
We have also responded to DEFRA concerning their work on invasive alien species. This issue is of considerable importance to us all. I answered some specific questions on exotics and hybrids, made use of an excellent IAF document by Dr Matt Gage, and the recent work by BFC Director Martyn Standley, that was used in the meeting with Scottish Heritage about the hacking of large falcons. The figures of lost exotics and hybrids came directly from IBR which is the most comprehensive data set available, but is only as good as the reporting of losses, recoveries and sightings. We all have a part to play in this respect because any lack of good data about falconry birds is pounced upon by our opponents.
Of course BREXIT and the likely effects upon bird of prey movements into and out of the EU, has taken a back-seat recently, but as the pandemic lessens we will see these issues return.
Whilst social distancing is something of a creed amongst falconers, regardless of current circumstances, I hope that travel and other restrictions will allow us to engage in the up-coming season unencumbered.
Dr Gordon Mellor
The Hawk Board
Falconry – Inscribed by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind